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Can property managers prohibit house sitters and pet sitters?

A house sitter or pet sitter is similar to a tenant's personal guest or another service worker, like a cable installer or house cleaner. Generally, tenants have the right to invite workers or guests into their home. Landlords can set basic rules for service workers as part of their Lease Agreement, like requiring licensing and insurance for workers hired by tenants, restricting noise, or limiting the length of stay for guests without written approval. 

For the most part, landlords have wide discretion to set rules, however, enforcing the rules on guests can be difficult. Still, even if technically legal to include in a Lease Agreement, it would be unusual to prohibit house sitters, pet sitters, or other workers, and could make it hard to find a tenant willing to sign your lease. 

Does a tenant have to notify you of a long-term stay by a house sitter or pet sitter?

You may require your tenants to notify you if a sitter, or any guest, is staying for a long period of time. Most landlords require notice when anyone will stay for more than 2 weeks. Landlords who don't already have this requirement should consider including it in their Lease Agreements. 

In some jurisdictions, absent a written agreement to the contrary, a long-term house sitter or pet sitter could become a tenant under the law. Depending on state or local law, if they refuse to leave, you may need to initiate an eviction if they've established a tenancy. Requiring tenants to provide a copy of the written agreement with their sitter and a written notice of long stays, can help to prevent guests or sitters from becoming tenants without your approval. It also helps you prove that the sitter is not a new tenant, after the fact, if that situation arises. Landlords may want to ask a lawyer to review their Lease Agreement to ensure they are equipped to handle these sorts of legal problems. 

How can property managers make sure a tenant's service provider is safe or qualified?

If you have a property manager, be sure to include the rules you want tenants to follow in your Property Manager Agreement. A property manager can be tasked with reviewing a tenant's proposed worker in order to make sure the worker meets the landlord's requirements.

Generally, tenants will be responsible, or liable, for their service providers, so it's in their interests to hire a reputable business. It is common practice for landlords to require tenants, or workers hired by tenants, to carry insurance that would cover most of the potential issues that could arise. Because of the difficulty in enforcing these requirements, landlords may want to provide educational materials on the importance of choosing licensed and insured companies. You might also suggest, or require, your tenant make a Pet Sitting Contract or written agreement with their house sitter that includes common safeguards. Offering a preferred list of service providers may seem like a good idea, but it could potentially result in a landlord being liable for the actions of those service providers. 

What should I do if a tenant's house sitter or pet sitter is doing a bad job or being disruptive?

First, talk to the tenant. Since they are away, they may not know about the problem and may be able to solve it on their own. If you suspect their pet is being neglected or abused, they will certainly want to know, and you may need to contact or coordinate with law enforcement.

If contacting your tenant is no help , you may need to send notice of the rule violation the sitter is committing, or if they are creating a dangerous situation, the authorities may need to get involved. The tenant is ultimately responsible to correct the issue or face fines, eviction, or other penalties as set out in your lease. You may also ban people or companies from your property if they are disruptive or refuse to follow the rules. Just be sure to document any issues as banning a tenant's guest or worker can be challenged. Fortunately, banning non-tenants typically requires written notice to the tenant rather than an eviction or court process.

Can a house sitter or pet sitter become a tenant?

Some state and local laws allow someone living in a place for a certain amount of time to become a tenant, even if they are not on the lease. This might be 14 days, 30 days, 60 days, or some other period of time. If a tenant has a house sitter or pet sitter, it's important to know whether they are spending the night or just stopping by to check on things. A service provider who stops by for a few minutes or hours, even on a regular basis, may not become a tenant. A problem may arise if the sitter spends a considerable amount of time there, sleeps, or lives on the property for more than a short period of time. This issue is most frequently encountered by live-in nannies or caregivers.

While, in some cases, a worker who overstays their job will be considered a trespasser, there are exceptions for many live-in workers and it may require a formal eviction to get them out. Landlords should consult with an attorney before taking action, as these situations can be legally complicated and unlawful evictions can carry severe penalties. 

To learn more about house sitters, pet sitters, unwanted tenants, and what you can do to prevent legal problems from arising, talk to a Rocket Lawyer network attorney or download the Rocket Lawyer Mobile App.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

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